This is one terribly good dragon tale that will leave readers laughing and with an appreciation for the healing power of a...

DRAGON WAS TERRIBLE

In this comical tale, one kingdom is fed up with its disobedient dragon.

This book may seem like your classic “bad dragon gone terrible” tale, complete with a king, a castle, and knights, but the text and illustrations work together to offer readers a different story—one that is modern and timeless. Dragon isn’t terrible in the way readers might suspect. Dragon is actually “super terrible” and spends his days spitting on cupcakes (“Who does that?!”) and stealing candy from baby unicorns (“Honestly, that’s terrible”). The illustrations add depth to each character and successfully integrate one contemporary character (a bespectacled, light-skinned child wearing sneakers and carrying a banjo) into the historical setting, which, in conjunction with the minimalist backdrop and modern narrative voice, creates relevancy and fosters a connection with readers. A valiant effort is made to include diverse characters, with a brown child, a brown wizard, and knights of varying skin tones. Perhaps the book’s most remarkable feat is its ability to gently and humorously suggest alternative, peaceable methods for dealing with negative emotions and destructive behavior while also reminding readers of the cathartic power of a good story. Astute readers will be able to pinpoint the moment when Dragon’s heart becomes open to change.

This is one terribly good dragon tale that will leave readers laughing and with an appreciation for the healing power of a good book. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30049-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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